None of us could escape the ubiquitous "Call Me Maybe" from Justin Bieber protégé Carly Rae Jepsen this year. And that turned out to be OK, because the viral parodies and singalongs -- which ranged from an Obama meme to Cookie Monster and Jimmy Fallon and The Roots -- made us realize that the song was worthy of our attention, at least for a Warhol minute. As for the rest of the year, here's my rundown:
Warning: some songs may contain adult lyrical content.
Airwaves: Radio was a mixed bag of prefab dance tracks and flat boy bands. A few hits shone brightly, not the least of which was Rihanna's "Diamonds," a moody, midtempo hit that's still embedding itself in our brains. Adele's "Skyfall" was mysterious and juicy, but got lost in the promo machine (see: nonstop Heineken ads) that buried us under Bond in November. I'm still tantalized by Alicia Keys' "Girl on Fire," but am growing weary of the industry's lazy overuse of Nicki Minaj (where's M.I.A. when we need her?). Pink's "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" gets the award for best pop rave-up.
Surprises: The true standouts of '12 were the ditties that took me unaware -- "Like a Sunday," a lush and thoughtful pop record by Magnets and Ghosts (from Ryan Potesta and Collective Soul's Dean Roland); "Run Run Run," an irresistible Bacharach-esque number from South Carolina band The Explorers Club; and "Always Shine" by Blue Note jazz artist Robert Glasper (featuring Bilal and Lupe Fiasco), whose album Black Radio is easily my favorite of the year.
Sweet: Months later, I'm still smitten with Paul McCartney's standards disc Kisses on the Bottom, especially when he and his makeshift combo (including the godsent Diana Krall) performed Harold Arlen's "It's Only a Paper Moon" live from Capitol Records in Los Angeles in February. British band Keane put out yet another stellar tunefest, Strangeland, which matches singer Tom Chaplin's choirboy tenor with melodies awash with optimism. It's hard to choose the best track; I'd had them all memorized within days of its April release, but if forced, I'd pick "Silenced by the Night," which really gets the lead out in the chorus.
Reflecting and Rebounding: Glen Hansard's "You Will Become" consumed me; it's the one song this year that shut out the rest of the world. Kudos for singularity. On the singer/songwriter front, Everything But the Girl's Tracey Thorn turned Tinsel and Lights into so much more than just a Christmas album (the original "Joy" and her takes on Sufjan Stevens' "Sister Winter" and Ron Sexsmith's "Maybe This Christmas" are brill). Alberta Cross traversed the bearded bridge of indiedom and wound up with "Lay Down" and a classic rock album, Songs of Patience. The Wallflowers' Clash homage, "Reboot the Mission," made me wish I had it on 45 RPM so I could put it on repeat; the other song that has taken up residence between my ears is Mother Mother's "Bright Idea" (a.k.a. the Kraft cheese commercial song).
Escapism: Tame Impala's "Apocalypse Dreams" helped me deal with election year angst by singing the world through a kaleidoscope lens, and Wild Belle's reggae-tinged "Keep You" came out strong mon, with a controversial video to match. My favorite Alabama Shakes song revealed soul screamer Brittany Howard's softer side ("Rise to the Sun"), and a revamp of a Christian hymn once made famous by Cat Stevens ("Morning Has Broken") breathes new life after being infused with country rock goodness by Third Day.
Best of the Rest: 1980s band The Fixx returned with "Anyone Else," an uptempo nod to the Occupy movement; Fun. did its best Queen impression with the catchy "Some Nights;" Beach House lulled us back into '90s shoegazer territory with "Lazuli;" American Idol winner Phillip Phillips licensed "Home" to NBC to be our main memory of the London Olympics; Tune-Yards fought AIDS for (RED) Hot with "Lady" featuring Angelique Kidjo, ?uestlove, and Aku Nara; The xx swept us away in "Tides," and Greg Laswell's "How the Day Sounds" proved he's more than just a prime time TV sync placement kind of guy.
All in all, a pretty good year -- thoughts?